Alessandro Consonni (Italy)
The Covid-19 pandemic: a lost opportunity to rediscover the benefit of a shared sovereignty
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed not only how much healthcare systems need to be strengthened but also how difficult it is to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goal 3 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (“ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”). Sure enough, the reality shows clearly how the spread of the virus was able to widen the gap between rich and poor people increasing inequalities worldwide. WHO’s data are indisputable: for every hundred doses of vaccine, eighty were allocated to developed countries such as the USA and the EU. So doing, the situation can only get worse because if a fully vaccinated population can get back quickly to normality, setting the national economy in motion, states in lockdown remain paralyzed. Although some world powers are trying to leverage these inequities to create a new form of colonialism, the lack of balance will undermine, without the shadow of a doubt, the foundations of the International community.
It was foreseeable that disparities would come to light and for this reason, the COVAX program was devised as a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to Covid-19 tests, treatments as well as vaccines. However, without beating around the bush, the program miserably failed. The race to produce vaccines has been translated into significant funding from rich nations to pharmaceutical multinationals to get the vaccine in the fastest possible time. Unfortunately, not all of the world has the same ability to produce vaccines and evidence for this is provided by the African case where it is produced just one percent of vaccines - not only against Covid-19 - given. Africa will be able to build a vaccine production plant in South Africa within 18 months solely whether major international players, who refuse to share their know-how, are willing to provide all the necessary information. If on the one hand, we are witnessing the triumph of technology and the development capacity of the medical industry, on the other, unacceptable differences are increasingly undeniable.
The Western concern for the global distribution of the vaccine has absolutely no humanitarian foundations but, instead, conceals a purely selfish worry. In other words. the aim is to avoid the virus can circulate freely in other areas of the planet and developing variants. Sadly, those who fight for greater distributive justice are certainly motivated by humanitarian reasons, but not all those who invoke humanitarian reasons are interested in greater distributive justice. Furthermore, one of the biggest issues in this day and age is the approach to the legal concept of product liability since, when a new molecule is created in a laboratory and lunch on the market, the pharmaceutical company is responsible for the adverse effects. Even though these vaccines, according to the figures, have been declared effective and safe, it is always possible that side effects may occur. It is no wonder nation states - at the time of purchase - have accepted the liability release for any negative consequences with the result that, in many countries, the patient, if he experiences some side effects, will have to bear all the costs for treatment. Could this be considered solidarity?
In the same way, are we sure that in many disadvantaged areas the main problem is Covid-19 infections? In Africa, many more people die from other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. To face global health emergencies it is necessary, first of all, not to lose sight of local health emergencies. In conclusion, the frontiers of medicine already today allow extraordinary progress in safeguarding people’s health, what is missing is their widespread dissemination in the areas of the world where, for several reasons, the current state of medicine, including preventive medicine, is still strongly deficient. A methodological approach, capable of declining at the local level the best practices known and adopted by the most advanced communities, would allow prodigious progress in a short lapse of time.